Three Kinds of Propostions

Propositions may be put under three categories:

1. Provable statements. These are propositions whose actual or probable truth value may be ascertained through logic, observation, experiments, etc. The sciences and a good deal of normal discourse consist mostly of provable propositions.

2. Disprovable absurdities. These are trivial or imaginary assertions which can be disproved by simple logic and observational evidence. Some examples would be: the number of letters in your name will affect the course of your life, tall people are more intelligent than short ones, one race is superior to another, Obama is a good president because he is African-American, etc.

3. Trans-rational convictions. These are non-trivial statements about dimensions of life and the world. One may argue about them endlessly, but  they cannot be proved or disproved by the methodology of science or by pure logic. Yet, many people, for various reasons, are convinced of their validity. Examples of trans-rational convictions: statements on the persistence of consciousness after death, eventual punishment or reward for our actions, re-incarnation, the divinity of certain historical personages, the existence of entities beyond the natural world, etc. Debates on their validity or otherwise, though not unusual, and often entertaining, tend to be futile. There are at least three reasons for the persistence of  trans-rational propositions: Some of them add meaning to the lives of millions of people. Many of them add to the enrichment of cultures. Sometimes they are provoked by an inner voice. Most of them are endopotent: they contribute to our inner well being. They are non-trivial.

Most aesthetic judgments belong to this category. Statements like Shakespeare is better than Kalidasa, Picasso is better than Chagall, Thyagaraja is better than Bach, are also trans-rational convictions. Arguments can be made to persuade others for or against such propositions, but they can never be established through logic.

October 4, 2011


About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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